The latest international research: Europe's floating microplastics may accumulate in the Arctic Ocean

  • 2022-04-02

A new environmental research paper published in the open-access academic journal Scientific Reports under Springer Nature suggests that microplastics floating in European rivers may accumulate in batches in the Arctic Ocean, the Nordic Sea and Baffin Bay.

The main drifting paths of European floating microplastics in the Mediterranean Arctic (Image source: author of the paper).
Previous studies have reported high concentrations of microplastic particles throughout the Arctic Ocean, but it was unclear where they came from and where they accumulated.
Corresponding author of the paper, Mats Huserbröten of the Norwegian Institute of Oceanography, and colleagues combined ocean current models from 2007 to 2017 with simulations of the movement of floating microplastics. They simulated the daily release of microplastics over a decade in 21 major rivers passing through northern and northern Europe, and then modeled their movement over several decades.
The researchers then compared the modeling results to the distribution of floating microplastics in 121 seawater samples collected from 17 sites off Norway's west coast between May 2017 and August 2018.
The authors found that most of the particles released by the rivers in the simulations were carried along two paths: 65% off the coast of Norway towards the Laptev Sea (in northern Russia), then transported into the Arctic Ocean, past the North Pole, It then left the Arctic Ocean via the Fram Strait in eastern Greenland; 30% of the simulated particles traveled along the coast of Norway, then headed south through the Fram Strait, drifted along Greenland's eastern and southern coasts, and moved south along the northeastern coast of Canada.
After 20 years of simulation, the researchers identified clear areas of accumulation of floating microplastics in the Nordic Sea, the Nansen Basin in the Arctic Ocean, the Barents Sea, the Laptev Sea (between the Arctic Ocean and northern Russia) and the Baffin Bay (between Greenland and Canada).
Analysis of seawater samples showed that the distribution of floating microplastics was consistent with the simulated microplastic release predicted by the authors of the paper ten years later and in subsequent flows in the Nordic Sea, Arctic Ocean and Fram Strait, suggesting that floating microplastics may have flowed in the Arctic Ocean at least 10 years later. ten years.
The authors argue that the flow of floating microplastics could have consequences for the health of Arctic ecosystems, and their findings underscore the importance of better management of plastic waste.

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